Coral Care and Acclimation

NoCoast Aquatics prepares saltwater animals for transportation using techniques to reduce the stress of moving to a new aquarium. When they arrive at your destination, you can continue this successful transport process when handling and acclimating, or adapting, your new marine animals to their new environment. 

Scientists, public aquariums and aquarists have experimented over many years and are continuing research to determine the best techniques to use when transitioning corals to a new aquarium. Advances in Coral Husbandry in Public Aquariums (R.J. Leewis and M. Janse, 2008) and experienced aquarists share the following tips and techniques:

Handling

  • Unpack and handle arriving corals with care as they are delicate and their tissues are sensitive to direct handling.
  • The use of surgical gloves is recommended to avoid contact to protect yourself and the coral tissue.
  • Always inspect corals for the presence of parasites or signs of infection; it important to assess the health of new corals arriving from any location. There are commercially available coral cleaning dips that may be helpful to reduce the risk of introducing problems into your aquarium.
Water Chemistry
  • Test your water and ensure that your aquarium is in good condition to receive new corals.
  • Float the coral in its sealed shipping bag in its new aquarium for 15 minutes so the water temperature can adjust.
  • Open the coral shipping bag and check the water chemistry in bag if possible. It is best if your aquarium pH and alkalinity is close to the shipping water values.
  • Use a slow drip to add water to the shipping bag to help the coral adjust to the new reef environment.
  • When transferring corals into the new aquarium, throw away the shipping water.
  • Clams should be transferred into the aquarium without being exposed to air; try to transfer and only release a small amount of shipping water into the aquarium.
  • Provide water flow for the corals to help clean the coral and surround it with oxygen-rich water.
 Light
  • It is very important to lower room light levels when opening shipping containers and turn off aquarium lights when introducing corals into a new environment. Corals have been transported in closed, dark containers so can be shocked if the light is intense.
  • Also critical is a slow acclimation of corals to the lighting systems in your aquarium over several days or weeks. Place them deep in the aquarium or in an area where the light isn’t intense. Corals are more stressed by adapting to bright light than by lower light, so error in favor of lower light when acclimating.
Other Tips
  • Most aquarists believe that if a coral is stressed it is better to more quickly introduce the coral into the new aquarium than to spend long periods of time acclimating.
  • For corals that produce a lot of mucus when transported, rinse the coral in a container of clean tank water before placing it into the new system.
  • A quarantine system, or holding tank, can be a used as a safety measure to initially observe or treat new corals prior to introducing them into your aquarium. This technique can be helpful in protecting your tank from pests, parasites or infections.
  • Many corals will not open their polyps for several days following transport. This should correct as they adjust to their new environment.